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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Spirit’s Fruit; Goodness Like Jesus

07/09 The Spirit’s Fruit; Goodness Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170709_goodness-like-jesus.mp3

Goodness and Kindness

We are looking at the fruitful Christian life; the fruit produced in us by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…

Today we come to goodness. What is goodness? What does it look like? How is it different from kindness?

All these characteristics are interrelated and overlapping. Remember it is one whole fruit described by its different aspects or characteristics. Last week we defined kindness as smooth, mellow, palatable, functional, comfortable, fitting. It is not severe, biting, harsh, chafing, or abrasive.

Where kindness is an inner attitude or disposition, goodness is the outward action; goodness is real tangible expressions of kindness.

In Luke 6, a passage we looked at last time, we are told to ‘do good’ because ‘God is kind’.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good [ἀγαθοποιέω], and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind [χρηστός] to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Doing good, if we look through the context of this passage, includes, loving, lending, blessing, praying, giving; to haters, to abusers, to persecutors, to enemies, to the ungrateful and the evil. We are to do good, and be merciful because God is kind.

In Matthew 7, Jesus talks about giving good gifts to your children, about a healthy tree bearing good fruit. In Matthew 12, Jesus challenges the corrupt religious leaders for speaking good when they are evil. He says:

Matthew 12:35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

Good Generosity

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a story about what the kingdom of heaven is like. He said:

Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity [ἀγαθός]?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

We are not told about the response of those who had only worked one hour and received the full day’s wages. You can imagine their response. The focus of this story is on the response of those who agreed to work for a days wages, and when they were given their full days wages, they grumbled because they thought they ought to receive more. They were angry that the master had given equal pay to all regardless of how long they had labored. It’s not fair! The response of the master? ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. I gave you what we agreed on. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is mine? His final question in verse 15 literally reads ‘is your eye evil because I am good?’ The master is good because he does what he promised. He pays what he owes. He also goes beyond and looks for those who are needy and gives them more than they deserve. He is generous. He is charitable. He is benevolent. He is good. He is good even to those who didn’t earn it. Goodness in this story is contrasted with being stingy; it is also contrasted with being exactly just or fair. Goodness is generosity.

Good Works

In Acts 9:36 we have a disciple named Tabitha; it is said “She was full of good works and acts of charity.” Tabitha made clothes for many.

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul outlines the requirements for a widow to be cared for by the church:

1 Timothy 5:5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, …10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

Works considered good include a hope set on God, not in some other reward. She is focused on the needs of others with a faithful and persistent prayer life, praying and interceding for others. Bringing up children is selflessly sacrificial. Showing hospitality is practically serving the needs of others, often strangers. Washing feet is a menial, humble, practical way to serve others. Caring for the afflicted is selfless service to others in need.

She has a reputation for good works and a devotion to good works. What is considered good is practical, tangible acts of caring for the needs of others, serving others. What is good is a kind generosity, giving to those in need regardless of if they deserve it. It is selfless, humble, practical generosity.

But I Can’t Do Good

But we have a problem. Remember what Paul say in Romans 7?

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. …24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Paul knows what good is. He knows what he ought to do. He wants to do it. But he struggles with carrying it out. He confesses that there is no good in him. I think most of us resonate with Paul’s frustration.

Only God is Good

Jesus had someone run up to him and ask him a question.

Mark 10:17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Matthew records him asking:

Matthew 19:16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

Good teacher, what good deed must I do? This man is throwing around the concept of ‘good’. Jesus confronts him on what he means by what he is saying.

Mark 10:18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

He had addressed Jesus as ‘good teacher’. And he claimed the ability to do good works. Jesus confronts his understanding of who Jesus is, and he exposes his inability to do any good. Jesus says ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’ In effect, he is asking, do you really know who it is you are talking to? Do you know who I am? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. No one but God truly acts selflessly and completely for the good of others. Jesus invites this man to be good like God is good; dispose of all that you have, and use it to bless others.

Jesus says to this man, there is no one good except God alone; if you truly believe that I am good, if you acknowledge that I am God, then you must obey me completely, follow me without looking back. Go, liquidate your assets, give to the poor, change where your treasure is, come follow me. God alone is good. And this good God must be followed. Nothing else is good next to him. As the Psalmist said:

Psalm 16:2 say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

This man should have said to Jesus, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ This man should have, like the man in Jesus’ parable (Mt.13:44), went out with joy and sold all that he had and went after that which was of infinitely more value than anything he possessed. Instead, “he went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.” This man failed to value properly what is good. He failed to see Jesus as truly good, better than all his great possessions.

Jesus was teaching that in order to be good, you must pursue with abandon the one who is good. Get rid of whatever is in the way, and go after the one who is good. Go after Jesus. As you begin to look to him, watch him, get close to him, follow him, you will begin to become good like him. You will begin to become generous like him.

You see, Jesus was not asking this man to do anything he himself was not willing to do. Jesus understood what it means to give up all your great possessions. In the wording of Philippians 2, Jesus knew what it is to have it all and then empty yourself, make yourself nothing. To take the form of a servant, to be obedient, to serve others for their good, even to the point of dying on a cross for them. Jesus is truly good. He was inviting this man to follow him. To learn from him. To become good like him.

How To Be Good and Do Good

Ephesians 2 tells us that we were meant for this; we were created for good works; we were saved by God’s unearned grace to be good and to do good.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The good works we walk in are good works prepared by God in advance for us. And Ephesians 6 tells us that we will be rewarded for these good works that he prepared in advance for us, good works that we walk in: we can’t out-give God

Ephesians 6:8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord…

This is stunning. God alone is good. God is good toward us even when we are his enemies. He works in us by his grace, and prepares good for us to walk in, and then he rewards us for the good that he enabled us to do!

2 Corinthians 9:7 …God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

God can make every good thing we don’t deserve abound to us. He will equip us with all sufficiency in all things at all times so that we may abound in every good work that he prepared in advance for us to walk in.

Hebrews 13 says:

Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

God did it all! The God who raised Jesus from the dead equips us with everything good that we may do his will. By the blood of Jesus, by the blood of the eternal covenant, he equips us with everything good that we need. He works in us that which is pleasing in his sight. He works it in us through Jesus Christ, and for his glory. All good is anchored in the person and finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2 tells us that we need God’s love and good hope through grace to do good works:

2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Our hearts must be comforted and established by God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ for every good work and for every good word. Good words must flow from a good heart that is transformed by God’s love and comfort and hope. Good works must be produced out of a heart amazed by God’s gracious good toward us.

2 Timothy 3 tells us that truly good works are rooted in Biblical truth:

2 Timothy 3:15 … you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Good works that are truly good are tangibly and practically caring for the needs of others. Sometimes that looks like charitable giving, acts of selfless generosity, sometimes selflessly caring for others looks like reproof, correction, teaching, training in righteousness. In love exhorting others for their good.

Paul’s cry in Romans 7, seeing that there is no good in him and that he fails to do the good he desires to do; Paul’s cry ‘who will deliver me from this body of death?’ He answers:

Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! …

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We are set free from condemnation by the cross. We are set free from the law by the Spirit of life. We are now enabled by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law as we walk according to the Spirit. Only God is good. And when the Spirit of the good God lives in us, he changes our heart to be good like Jesus, and to do good like Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 17:-19; Location of Worship

10/09 Leviticus 17; Location for Worship; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161009_leviticus-17_1-9.mp3

We are in Leviticus 17, a chapter that deals with the handling of blood. To step back and look at where we are in the big picture of Leviticus, we see:

Leviticus 1-10 Sacrifices and Priests that make Atonement

–Leviticus 11-15 Uncleanness that Needs Atonement

—-Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement

–Leviticus 17 Blood that makes Atonement

Leviticus 18-27 Holy Living in Response to Atonement

The remainder of the book tells us how forgiven people ought to live in response to the forgiveness they have been given.

In chapter 17, we see the location of sacrifice and the careful handling of the blood. If we outline this chapter we see something like this:

17:1-7 no peace offerings sacrificed outside the sanctuary

–17:8-9 no other sacrifices outside sanctuary

—-17:10 no blood consumption

——17:11 atonement by blood

—-17:12 no blood consumption

–17:13-14 no blood consumption from hunted animals

17:15-16 no blood consumption from dead animals

The first half of the chapter deals with the legitimate location of sacrifices. The second half of the chapter deals with consumption of non-sacrificial animals. The center section deals with the proper handling of blood, with verse 11 as the centerpiece of this chapter, giving us a pivotal statement about the role of blood in atonement.

We will take the first section today, then next week we will work through the central section of this chapter.

The Location of Sacrifice

Leviticus 17:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. 3 If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. 5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations. 8 “And you shall say to them, Any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice 9 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that man shall be cut off from his people.

One question many have had about this passage is: Does this prohibit slaughter of any animals for food outside of the tabernacle? The first 4 verses use the general word for kill, which could include simple butchering for meat. If this is the case, then this passage would require all meat to be offered as a sacrifice first at the tabernacle. But Deuteronomy 12 specifically says that the Israelites may kill and eat animals in their own towns away from the sanctuary. Those that believe this includes all meat see this as a temporary requirement for Israel camped around the central tabernacle, and they see Deuteronomy preparing for a different setting, when Israel will be scattered across the land that they are going in to possess. But this overlooks the fact that verse 7 says “This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” And if this were a requirement that all animals that are killed for food must first be offered as a sacrifice, there is no instruction on what to do with blemished animals, for only unblemished animals may be offered in sacrifice to the LORD. Deuteronomy 12 states what is left unsaid in this chapter, that domestic animals may be killed for food away from the sanctuary. This chapter is focused on animals killed as sacrifices.

This first section deals with the location of sacrifices, but more importantly it confronts to whom the sacrifices are offered, and confronts our tendency toward idolatry. The goal of this section, stated in verse 5, is

Leviticus 17:5 This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD. 6 And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

All sacrifices are to be sacrifices to the LORD, brought to the LORD’s one specified place of sacrifice. This is primarily an issue of who is to be worshiped. The altar is here called ‘the altar of YHWH.’ This is a unique designation of the bronze altar of burnt offering. It emphasizes that every sacrifice is to be brought to the one true God. The tabernacle is called the tent of meeting, because the focus is on meeting with God.

Verses 5 and 6 specifically deal with the peace offering of chapter 3, the offering where the fat was burned on the altar to the LORD, and the worshiper ate some of the sacrificed animal in communion with God. Verses 8-9 extend the issue to include burnt offerings or any of the other kinds of sacrifices. They are all to be offered exclusively to God at the one place he has established in the specific way that he has proscribed.

This is an issue of the first commandment.

Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In the context of Israel camped around the tabernacle, this mean that sacrifice was to be offered nowhere else but the tabernacle, officiated by the priests in the way proscribed by the LORD. Deuteronomy chapter 12 is the counterpart to Leviticus 17, giving instructions more specifically in the context of the occupation of the promised land, that sacrifice is then to be offered nowhere else but the one place that the LORD chooses to make his name dwell, the temple in Jerusalem. The Israelites were instructed to tear down all high places and altars that the pagans used and not follow their idolatrous practices. God demands exclusive worship. He is the God who triumphed over the gods of the Egyptians and set his people free to worship him. This is the God who would be victorious over the gods of the Canaanite people who occupied the promised land.

Idolatrous Inclinations

We might think that it would go without saying that the LORD is the only one to be worshiped. But our tendency to idolatry runs deep. Verse 7 says:

Leviticus 17:7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

Notice, this was not written to warn against an obscure possibility; this is written to confront a practice that was already going on, a practice that was incompatible with the worship of the one true God, a practice that was considered covenant breaking adultery. The people were sacrificing in the wilderness to goat demons. We find this almost unbelievable. How could the people of Israel, who had witnessed the ten plagues, who had walked through the Red Sea on dry land, who had seen the LORD destroy their enemies, who had seen the lightning and felt the thunder at Mount Sinai, who had seen the glory cloud come down and inhabit the sanctuary, how could these people sacrifice to goat demons in the wilderness? How could they!

But how can we, we who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we who have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus, we who have knelt at the foot of the cross and seen the divine Word made flesh, Love incarnate, die for our sins, how can we go after money and pleasure and power and position and praise and security and family and food and possessions and comfort and ease? How is it that we so frequently fail to acknowledge God as God or give him thanks? ‘Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Take my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it to thy courts above.’ We have wicked idolatrous, adulterous hearts.

This is why this issue is so serious, and carries such a severe penalty.

Leviticus 17:4 …bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people.

God considers idolatry as serious as murder. He will have a people with hearts single toward him, with affections alone for him. He is a jealous God.

God knew the hearts of his people. In Deuteronomy 31,

Deuteronomy 31:16 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them.

…18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. 19 “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.”

God knew the idolatrous inclination of the hearts of his people, so he warned them.

Deuteronomy 32:15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

Our tendency is to forget God. To fail to give him thanks and praise. To follow other things. To fix our affections on other things.

Idolatry in the New Testament

We tend to think that this issue of idolatry is remote and removed from us. We are not polytheistic. We do not bow down to idols. That this is still an issue for the New Testament believer is clear from Paul’s teaching to the church in Corinth. In chapter 10 he warns us:

1 Corinthians 10:6 …that we might not desire evil… 7 Do not be idolaters… 8 we must not indulge in sexual immorality… 9 we must not put Christ to the test… 10 nor grumble…

We would certainly agree that most of the things he mentions here are relevant temptations today. Anyone here struggle with grumbling? He goes on.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

The main issue Paul deals with in this chapter is idolatry. An idol is what we value, what we treasure, what we trust, what we hope in, what we work for, what we focus on, what we put time and energy into. Colossians 3 gives us insight into our idolatrous nature.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Covetousness, putting our hope in something we don’t have to fulfill a longing in us, is idolatry. Paul tells us that this is earthly and we are to put it to death. That is one side of his instruction – kill idolatry, kill evil desire, kill covetousness. The other side of his instruction comes first, and it is positive. He says

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Seek what is above. Set your minds on things above. Fix your eyes, fix your hopes, fix your heart on what is above. Notice, this comes first, and makes the second command so much easier. If our hearts and our hopes are attached to God and his glory, it is easier to crucify our covetousness. It is still painful, it is still a fight, but it is easier. It is much easier to let go of something when you have something more solid, more substantial, more satisfying to hold on to. Put to death that which is earthly, because you have been resurrected to a heavenly reality.

Jesus and the Location for Worship

Leviticus 17 restricts all sacrifice to one central worship location to prevent the people from continuing to follow after false gods.

In John 4 Jesus was asked a question about the location of worship.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

The woman from Samaria asked Jesus about the proper place of worship. Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem? Which place is the right place to worship? Place matters. Leviticus tells us to bring our sacrifices to the altar of YWHW. Which is the true altar? Who is right? The Samaritans or the Jews? This is a Leviticus 17 question.

John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

This is a staggering answer! Which altar is the true altar? Which place is the right place? No. Neither. “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Mk.11:17). The house was condemned. “There will not be left here one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mk.13:2). The glory presence had left. Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Where then? Where is the place to worship?

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

God is Spirit, true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Jesus is decentralizing the worship of YHWH. It is no longer about a location, no longer about an altar, because God is not confined to a location. The shadow is being replaced by the reality. God is spirit. He will be worshiped in spirit and truth. Where?

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people.

We are the temple of the living God. God’s temple is wherever you are. So glorify God in your body. Worship him in spirit and in truth. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. You are God’s temple. God’s Spirit dwells in you. Wherever you are, at all times, truly worship him. Honor him. Give him thanks. Fix your attention on Jesus.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 10, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 14:1-32; Cleansed!

09/04 Leviticus 14:1-32; Cleansed!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160904_leviticus-14_1-32.mp3

Completely Leprous and Clean (13:12-13)

Last week we looked at Leviticus 13, a chapter that describes in gross detail different kinds of skin disease, and how to identify if it is the kind of disease that makes one unclean and cuts one off from the community. Common characteristics of skin conditions that were considered unclean were those that appeared to be deeper than the skin, symptoms of a deeper problem, and those that spread, that didn’t go away or continued to get worse over time. One curious case that we didn’t look at in detail is in Leviticus 13:12-13.

Leviticus 13:12 And if the leprous disease breaks out in the skin, so that the leprous disease covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, 13 then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean.

How is it that when the disease breaks out and covers every inch of his flesh, he is clean? Isn’t that a clear case of ‘unclean’? Is that a typo? If a person cannot point to even one patch of healthy skin, that would seem to make him wholly unclean, but rather the verdict is ‘clean’ and he is welcomed into the community and into the sanctuary. This seems “a complete paradox to all save those who understand God’s mode of dealing with sinners” [CHM p.363]. C.H.Spurgeon said:

How many there are, who, as they come up here, are ready to confess that they have done many things which are wrong, but they say, “though we have done much which we cannot justify, yet there have been many good actions which might almost counterbalance the sin. Have we not been charitable to the poor, have we not sought to instruct the ignorant, to help those that are out of the way? We have some sins, we do confess, but there is much at the bottom which is still right and good and we therefore hope that we shall be delivered.”

“I do not know,” said Martin Luther, “when men will ever believe that text in which it is written Christ died for our sins. They will think that Christ died for our righteousness, whereas He died for our sins. Christ had no eye to our goodness when He came to save us, but to our badness.” A physician, when he comes to my house, has not an eye to my present health. He does not come there because I am healthy, but because I am sick and the more sick I am, the more call for the physician’s skill and the more argument does my sickness yield why he should exercise all his craft and use his best medicines on my behalf. Your only plea with Christ is your guilt. Use it, Sinner, use it as David did when he said, “Lord have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is great!” If he had said “Have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is little,” he would have been a legalist and would have missed his mark. But when he said, “Have mercy, for it is great!” he understood the Gospel riddle—that strange paradox at which Pharisees always kick and which worldlings always hate—the glorious fact that Jesus Christ came into the world “not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [C.H.Spurgeon, The Cleansing of the Leper, no.353, Dec. 30, 1860]

Andrew Bonar writes “Is it not when a soul is fully sensible of entire corruption, …that salvation is nearest? A complete Saviour for a complete sinner?” [Bonar, p.234].

Consequences of Leprous Skin Diseases

Remember, the consequences of being pronounced unclean.

Leviticus 13:45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

And remember, there was little hope for the one pronounced unclean. The procedure for making that declaration was not hasty or subjective, but when it happened, it was devastating. Separation from family, from friends, from society, from the worshiping community. It was a living death. That makes it so surprising when we get to chapter 14

Leviticus 14:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person,

Leviticus 14 gives instructions for the day of his cleansing, when he is healed. Wait, what? We skipped a chapter. How did the leper get healed? What did he do? What treatments did he undergo? What medication did he take? Last chapter he is kicked out of the community, forced to live alone, to wear the label and declare himself unclean to anyone who would come near. Now he is healed. Did I miss something? If you are the one being declared unclean, don’t you want to know what you have to do to get healed? Don’t tell me what kind of ceremony I go through after I get healed, I want to know how I get healed. Leviticus has no cure. Leviticus identifies the problem. There is in fact nothing proscribed for the leprous person to do. The only thing a leper can accomplish on his own is making everything he touches unclean. In this passage describing the ceremony for pronouncing the leper clean, he is not the doer. Things are being done to and for him. He shall be brought to the priest. The priest shall go out of the camp. Notice, the diseased person has been excluded from the community, and is not permitted to seek out the priest himself. He is not permitted to enter the camp. The priest must go out to him. Remember, we are Christians, looking for glimpses of Jesus in Leviticus, because it is all about Jesus! Jesus our great High Priest does not remain in glory waiting for us to make our way to him. He comes to us when we are outsiders.

The Ceremony

Leviticus 14:4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6 He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field.

This is one of the most elaborate rituals in the Old Testament. It has some similarities to Numbers 19, where we find rituals for cleansing those who have come in contact with a grave or a dead body. That ceremony also uses cedarwood, scarlet yarn, hyssop, and living water. This connection to another ritual that purifies from contact with death makes sense, because the diseased person who is declared unclean is living in a state of separation as if he were dead. Why these things?

Possibly cedarwood because it is durable and long lasting. King Solomon “spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall” (1 Ki.4:33) as a way to refer inclusively to all plants from the greatest to the least.

A scarlet cord marked out Rahab and her house for deliverance in the destruction of Jericho. Scarlet yarn was used extensively in the construction of the tabernacle, and the uniforms for the priests, so it would be a connection with the sanctuary.

Hyssop was a plant used in the Passover to paint blood on the doorposts of the Hebrew homes. It was used in the covenant making ceremony at the foot of Mt. Sinai to sprinkle the people with blood (Ex.24; cf. Heb.9:19). In David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51 he prays:

Psalms 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Hyssop was used as a sponge to extend the sour wine to Jesus on the cross (Jn.19:29).

Fresh water, literally living water was water that had not been stagnant. Jesus referred to himself as the source of living water (Jn.4:10-11, 7:38).

The earthenware vessel, or clay pot was an ordinary container, basically made out of dirt. 2 Corinthians 4:7 speaks of holding a treasure in jars of clay as a way to describe the dust to dust frailty of our human existence.

I find this ceremony a bit funny. It reminds me a bit of some of the things my brother did to me when I was younger. “hey Rodney, hold these two wires… Stand right here on this X and pull this string… Hold this while I light the fuse”. Something tells me this is not going to end well. So you take these two live birds, and some red string, and a piece of wood, and a plant, and a bucked of water. And you kill one of the birds over the bucket and don’t forget to hold on to the live bird. Have you ever killed a bird? That’s messy! But don’t let go of the live bird. Now dip all the stuff in the bloody water. Yes, the live bird too. It’ll be fine. Now use the plant to sprinkle blood all over the guy, but keep holding on to the live bird that you dipped in the blood. Now take the live bird, make sure it’s really wet and bloody and let it go…

But even in this strange ritual we can see a picture of Jesus. Living water in a clay pot. Two birds; one clearly representing death, the other possibly picturing resurrection? Blood applied to a diseased person to declare him whole. Remember, all this is done to for the leper, and to the leper. He is not doing anything. He is passive. At the end of this he is pronounced clean.

Washing and Shaving

After he is declared clean, the person being cleansed becomes more involved in the ceremony. Up to this point he could do nothing. Now that he is declared clean he becomes an active participant in the ceremony.

Leviticus 14:8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.

There is a seven day process that includes laundry, shaving and bathing, and returning to the camp, but not going home yet. Shaving is often a sign of mourning or humiliation. Have you ever seen someone who shaved – all their hair – even their eyebrows? This would be especially shocking in a culture that is not to trim the corners of your beard. A man who shaved his beard and every bit of hair off his body would look a little like a newborn baby. Could this be a picture of new life after death, a new birth of sorts? Jesus said ‘you must be born again.’

The Eighth Day

Leviticus 14:10 “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. 11 And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12 And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 13 And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.

The eighth day is a day is a day of new beginnings. The former leper is now welcomed back in the camp, but not yet into his own home. First he must come before the Lord. The former leper who was excluded from the community is now brought in before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. The first sacrifice is a guilt offering, which we learned from Leviticus 5 makes restitution for an unintentional sin against the holy things of the Lord. We were created to bear the image of God and declare his glory, but the leprous skin disease has distorted the image of God in him. He must offer first a guilt offering. But this guilt offering is unique.

Leviticus 14:14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LORD. 17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed.

This is similar to the ordination offering for the priests, from which some of the blood was applied to different body parts to cleanse their ears from listening to lies and slander, to cleanse their hands from doing wrong, to cleanse their feet from walking away from the Lord. The former leper was then anointed with oil on these same body parts, to set apart his ears to hear the words of the Lord, to do what he commands, to walk in his ways. He was anointed with the oil of gladness, free again to enjoy God’s presence.

Leviticus 14:18 …Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD. 19 The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. 20 And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

These are the regular offerings made in the tabernacle or temple. The final 12 verses repeat the eighth day ritual for a leper who cannot afford three lambs. He can substitute pigeons or doves for two of the lambs, but the guilt offering must still be a lamb. The former leper is now fully welcomed back into fellowship with God and with other members of the community. He now no longer carries the stigma of unclean. Atonement has been made and he is clean.

Jesus and Leprosy

Jesus’ interaction with a leper is recorded in Matthew 8, Mark 1 and Luke 5.

Luke 5:12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (cf. Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45)

Remember, the priests had the responsibility to inspect and determine if a person was clean or unclean. They had no power to heal. This leper, full of leprosy, knowing his desperate need, entered a city to find Jesus. He recognized in Jesus something more than the priests. Jesus could heal. Jesus touched this diseased man, and with a word he immediately healed him. A man full of leprosy was transformed instantly. And then Jesus commands him to go get Leviticus 14 done. Go show yourself to the priests make the offering for your cleansing as a proof to them. As a witness, as a testimony to the unbelieving priests. I can just imagine a priest coming back from this encounter. ‘Where have you been, and what happened to you?’ He’s completely splattered in blood, and has a bit of a stunned look on his face. ‘You know that Leviticus 14 thing? Oh, you mean with the birds and the string and the wood and the water? Yeah… Wait, that’s for cleansing a leper… Yeah…’ They may have never used Leviticus 14 before. What is this a testimony of? When John sent disciples to ask Jesus ‘are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’

Luke 7:22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Cleansing of lepers was a sign that God had come down and the messianic age was unfolding. The system that could merely identify problems without offering any cure was coming to an end. The one who could get to the root of the problem and heal was now on the scene. Jesus is both all-powerful and full of compassion. He is both able and willing to heal. If you will come to Jesus acknowledging that ‘in me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing’ (Romans 7:18)

If you will repent of your dead works and believe in Jesus (Heb.6:1), if you will fall on your face and beg him ‘Lord, only you can make me clean’, Jesus will stretch out his hand and touch you right where you are, as you are, in all your filth and uncleanness, and even today, based on his finished work, he will say ‘I will, be clean’.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 6, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowing the Incomprehensible

08/23 Knowing the Incomprehensible; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150823_knowing-the-incomprehensible.mp3

We are seeking God, seeking to know God, to see what the Bible has to say about who God is, what he is like. As we seek his face, see him for who he is, we must learn to respond to him in worship and service and thanksgiving. It is not enough just to know what he is like. We must respond to him, interact with him. We must know him.

Last time we ended with a prayer of longing for God from Psalm 63.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

We long to know God, but we need to ask the question, is this even possible? If God is the all satisfying source of every good thing, if to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment, can we know him? Is he knowable?

Meant to Know God

As we saw last time, the answer to this must be yes, at least in some sense. According to Romans 1, we are expected to know him, and held accountable for how we respond to what we know of him. We are under God’s wrath because we have irreverently and falsely suppressed the truth about God.

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images … 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. …28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, …

God can be known, indeed he is known, because he has made himself known. Here is a key principle that will help us throughout our endeavor to know God. What we know of God is what God has made known to us. What can be known is plain because God has shown it to us. What we know, we know because of the self-revelation of God. Romans 1 is specifically talking about what we can know about the Creator from looking at his creation. His invisible attributes, his eternal power, his divine nature are clearly perceived in the things that have been made. How much clearer will our perception be if God has communicated directly, in words, telling us what he is like! This is an amazing truth, as Francis Schaeffer reminded us, ‘he is there and he is not silent. God has spoken. He wants to be known. He is a God who communicates, who makes himself known.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

God says in the new covenant

Jeremiah 31:33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

God intends for a relationship with his people. I will be there God and they will be my people. They will know me. Paul prays for the church in Colossae.

Colossians1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

We were meant to know God, to be in relationship with God. From creation we were intended to walk with God, to enjoy fellowship with him. That relationship was severed when we rebelled against his good rule. But now, because of the cross of Jesus, we can be always increasing in the knowledge of God.

Obstacles to Knowing God

We are meant to know God, but there are some obstacles to knowing him. Some of those obstacles are on our side, and some are on his.

Sin

On our side, we have a sin problem. Sin has damaged everything.

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Our sin has severed our relationship with God. If God seems distant, it is because we have pushed him away. We were meant to know God, but we rejected his rule and questioned his goodness and love. We usurped his authority and attempt to rule in his place, to run our own lives. Our sin has hidden his face from us. The good news is that through Jesus Christ, our sin can be taken away so that we can be reconciled to God. But sin has left its mark on every part of our being. Humanity is twisted, distorted because of the fall. We are not as God intended us to be.

Romans 1:21 …but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

Sin has tainted our thinking and our feeling. We do not think as we ought to think. Our ability to reason correctly has been affected.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

What seems right and reasonable to us may be very distant from what is truly right. We need to maintain a healthy distrust of our own ability to think clearly, especially when it comes to such a high subject as God. Romans 1 tells us that we have a tendency to suppress the truth. Our desires influence our perception. What we want God to be like influences what we think of him. We need to remember that what can be known about God is plain because God has made it known. The only safe path is to let God define himself, and allow him to critique and correct our inadequate views of him.

Our thinking is distorted by sin, but also our desires.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Our hearts are twisted and sick. We cannot trust our own desires. Our desires are deceitful, they lie to us. The things we want the most are not the things that will truly satisfy. There is in our world a desperate lack of desire to know God. If you look around at the people you know, very few of them are interested in God at all. Very few are interested in really knowing him. Some are interested in going to heaven, or in doing something to gain his favor so that he will give them some good thing, but very few are interested in knowing God. In fact, the bible says that no one seeks God. No, not one (Rom.3:11). If you find in your heart a hunger to know God, thank him for that! God placed that desire for him in you. God is the author of that desire.

Many people want God to be different than he is. They want to re-define God in a way that suits their fancy. They hold self up as the ultimate good, and require God to submit to their ideas. They want to conform God to their own image.

Our hearts and our minds are distorted by sin. The gospel is the remedy!

Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Our hearts are softened and our minds are renewed as we are taught the truth that is in Jesus. Sin is a major obstacle to knowing God. It is an obstacle that has been overcome by the sacrifice of Jesus, but its effect lingers, and we must continue to battle against it. But this is all on our side. There are obstacles to knowing God that come from God’s side.

Incomprehensibility

Even if we had no sin, there would still be an enormous obstacle to knowing God. Even when we are ultimately set free from our sin and see him face to face, this obstacle will remain. And it is an obstacle rooted in the very nature of God. It is the difficulty of the creature attempting to understand the Creator; of the finite attempting to grasp the Infinite; the temporal grappling with the Eternal; the eye attempting to perceive the Invisible.

1 Timothy 6:15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Immortal, invisible, unapproachable. That certainly does put a damper on our relationship!

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Deep, unsearchable, inscrutable. Who has known his mind? It is past finding out.

Psalm 145:1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Psalm 147:1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. …5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Beyond measure. Abundant. Words fall short to describe him. Moses described his appearance on Mount Sinai.

Deuteronomy 4:11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

Fire wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. No visible form. Unapproachable light. We have a big word to describe an even bigger concept. Incomprehensibility. How many other 8 syllable words do you know? God is incomprehensible. He is far beyond our ability to understand.

A.W. Tozer in his book ‘Knowledge of the Holy’ points to our difficulty in grasping God.

We learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar. Even the most vigorous and daring mind is unable to create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination. …

The effort of inspired men to express the ineffable has placed a great strain upon both thought and language in the Holy Scriptures. These being often a revelation of a world above nature, and the minds for which they were written being a part of nature, the writers are compelled to use a great many “like” words to make themselves understood. When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism. For example, when the prophet Ezekiel saw heaven opened and beheld visions of God, he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was wholly different from anything he had ever known before, so he fell back upon the language of resemblance. “As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.” The nearer he approaches to the burning throne the less sure his words become: “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it…. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, p.7-8)

The other way we seek to describe what God is like is by way of negation. We can only describe what he is by comparing him with things we are familiar with, and he is utterly unlike anything else. So we must resort to using negatives to trim away the things that he is not, leaving what he is somewhat undefined. We have a number of words that begin with ‘in-‘ or ‘im-‘ or ‘un-‘ to narrow down what God is not. When we say he is uncreated, we mean that he was not brought into being by something else. Immortal means that he is not subject to death. When we say he is ‘invisible’ we mean he is something that is not visible, but he is still something. What it is exactly, we can’t be sure. Infinite means that he has no limit.

A poem might help us feel the weight of our difficulty.

The Blind Men and the Elephant

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, “Ho, what have we here,

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ’tis mighty clear

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake:

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,

And felt about the knee

“What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain,” quoth he:

“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,

Said: “E’en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Than seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

Incomprehensible yet Knowable

To say that God is incomprehensible is not to say that God is unknowable. We can know true things about him. Real things about him. But we must recognize that we cannot know everything about him. We will never have an exhaustive knowledge of God. I don’t fully understand everything about myself, and I certainly don’t understand a lot of things about my wife. But I do know some things about her. And I can enjoy a relationship with her. I can do things that I know will make her angry. And I can do things that I know will make her smile. And I know I ought to do more of the one and less of the other. The fact that God is incomprehensible yet knowable allows us to enjoy our relationship with him, yet continually long for more of him. We can continually behold him – we can perceive true things about him, what he has made known to us, and respond in worshipful reverence and awe.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:8-11; Resurrecting Grace

04/12 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 Resurrecting Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150412_1cor15_8-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί. 9 ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων, ὃς οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς καλεῖσθαι ἀπόστολος, διότι ἐδίωξα τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ· 10 χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι, καὶ ἡ χάρις αὐτοῦ ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη, ἀλλὰ περισσότερον αὐτῶν πάντων ἐκοπίασα, οὐκ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀλλὰ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ σὺν ἐμοί. 11 εἴτε οὖν ἐγὼ εἴτε ἐκεῖνοι, οὕτως κηρύσσομεν καὶ οὕτως ἐπιστεύσατε.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul has made known the gospel, the good news message of Christ crucified for sinners and risen triumphant. This is the powerful resurrection message that transforms sinners into saints, brings life out of death, and makes people new creations in Christ. Paul holds himself out as a caricature, an exaggerated example of the gospel at work in an extreme case. His emphasis is on grace (he uses the word 3 times in verse 10) – God’s startling, unexpected, irrational grace extended toward unworthy recipients at inopportune times. Grace is that which is freely given, lavishly poured out, extravagantly supplied, and it is completely unearned, totally undeserved, absolutely unmerited. The polar opposite of grace is wages, that which I earn, that which I deserve, that which is owed to me. The gospel is all about grace.

Paul could have held up any of the apostles as exhibits of God’s grace. Peter, James, and John, common fishermen, called into the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew, a despised tax collector, chosen to follow Jesus. Simon, a violent Zealot eager to overthrow Rome with force, called now to lay down his own life in love as part of a different kind of rebellion. He could have pointed to James, one of the Lord’s earthly brothers, who did not believe in Jesus until after the crucifixion, yet the risen Lord appeared to him, and by grace, he became a leader in the Jerusalem church. Each one is a trophy of grace, evidence of God pouring out favor on those who didn’t earn it, transforming broken people and using unlikely instruments to accomplish his good purposes.

Saul

But Paul holds himself up as the extreme example of God’s resurrecting grace at work. He says:

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul was called by God to be an apostle. But Paul considers himself least of all the apostles. He considers himself unworthy to be numbered among the apostles. And that is the definition of grace; a good gift extended to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Grace and unworthy go together. They must be kept together. God doesn’t give grace to those who think they deserve it. But if we could rank unworthiness on a scale, Paul was at the extreme end of unworthy. Paul was formerly called Saul, and he was present when Stephen preached the good news about Jesus, and, we are told:

Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Saul took pleasure in the execution of this godly man. Saul was ravaging the church. The persecution became so severe that the believers fled Jerusalem and scattered into the surrounding areas. But Saul was not content to drive them out of Jerusalem. He intended single-handed to extinguish this faith in Jesus from the earth.

Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Saul was seething with rage and malice toward the followers of Jesus. His was not just a passive feeling of hostility; he was actively creating opportunities to carry out evil against Jesus’ disciples. He obtained authority to pursue the scattered believers into the surrounding regions, even past the borders of Israel, far north, about 135 miles, to Damascus in Syria.

When he was interrupted on his way to Damascus, Jesus asked him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Paul describes himself in 1 Timothy as formerly a ‘blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent”

1 Timothy 1:14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

He refers to himself as the chief or foremost or most prominent of all sinners, the worst of the worst, completely unworthy of any kindness from God. Given the opportunity, it seems, Saul would have gladly taken the crown of thorns from the soldier’s hands and beat it into Jesus’ skull himself, spitting in his face.

An Abortion [εκτρωματι]

Paul describes his conversion on the Damascus road this way:

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The word translated ‘to one untimely born’ could more literally be translated a miscarriage or an aborted fetus. This word is used in Numbers 12:12, Job 3:16 and Ecclesiastes 6:3 of a stillborn child.

We see this imagery in Ezekiel 16, addressed to Jerusalem, vividly describing the unworthiness of God’s chosen people.

Ezekiel 16:4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. 6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

I don’t think there is a more startling or graphic picture of helplessness and hopelessness than this. This is Paul’s view of himself. When Jesus appeared to him, he compares himself to a discarded abortion, wallowing in his own blood. God called him when he was helpless and hopeless, hostile toward God, dead in his trespasses and sins.

Our Condition

I think Paul means for us to recoil at the thought, to be amazed by God’s grace, and then to identify with him. What a grotesque image, an aborted fetus, rejected, discarded, wallowing in its blood. Helpless, far beyond all hope. A blasphemer, persecutor, insolent opponent, breathing threats and murder against the disciples, ravaging the church. Why? Why extend grace to this one? What amazing grace that saved a wretch like …Saul. This is the way Paul describes his own condition, but this is also the way he describes our condition. We need to see ourselves in this light. He says in Colossians:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

He says in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

This is free, sovereign, undeserved, resurrecting grace. This is immeasurable riches of grace. We, we who were dead were made alive with him. I was utterly helpless, beyond all hope, hostile toward God, entirely self-focused. When he saw me wallowing in my blood he said ‘live!’ I was dead in my trespasses, and he said ‘Live!’ He spoke life into me, he made me alive, he raised me up, he seated me with his beloved Son. He demonstrated immeasurable riches of grace to an utterly unworthy sinner.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

He caused us to be born again. He poured out unmerited resurrecting grace on a wretch like me.

Grace, Grace, Grace

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am,

God’s unmerited grace came to Saul and said ‘Live!’ and Saul, although last of all the apostles, least of all the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, by God’s irrational grace, he is made eyewitness to the resurrected Lord, apostle to the Gentiles. Anything good he is, he is by God’s grace. He is alive because of grace. He was confronted with his own sinfulness by grace. He turned to Jesus by grace. He became a follower by grace. He was appointed to serve by grace.

Ephesians 3:7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

This was all of grace. Paul acknowledges his entire and absolute dependence on God’s grace. Nothing was earned. Nothing deserved. All was freely given to him by grace.

Grace Works

Paul goes on to say that, although he did nothing to work for that grace, that grace was hard at work in him.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them,

God’s grace was not in vain. It was not empty, fruitless, or without effect. God’s grace produced results. It produced fruit. Unlike Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16, where God’s grace brought life, and cared for an nurtured, and made her his own, provided for her needs, but she became unfaithful to him. In Paul, God’s grace was effective. He worked harder than any of them. Paul is comparing himself to the other apostles. I think he is saying, ‘I worked harder than all twelve of them put together.’ And what we see in the record of Acts bears this out. Paul proclaimed Jesus in Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, Caesarea, Syrian Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Attalia, Troas, Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, Assos, Mitylene, Trogyllium, Miletus, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Antipatris, Sidon, Myra, Fair Havens, Malta, Syracuse, Rhegium, Puteoli, Appian Way, Nicopolis, and Rome. 2 years after writing 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, stating:

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles … 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, … 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul brought the gospel to the provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia, and by 57 AD he considered the evangelization of the Agean lands complete. His ambition was to visit Rome briefly and then to travel on to Spain!

In 2 Corinthians Paul catalogs the hardships he faced in service to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul could rightly boast ‘I worked harder than them all,’ but he is quick to clarify:

1 Corinthians 15:10…though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Everything I accomplished for the cause of Christ was not me. It was God’s grace. God’s grace accomplished it all through me. Paul gives all credit to God for every accomplishment.

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me

This is the way he talked in the book of Acts.

Acts 15:12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Acts 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Notice, it is all the things God has done. Christ has accomplished. He had already told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

God, by his grace, accomplishes his good purposes through us. Paul teaches the Philippians:

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God is at work in you. You are his workmanship. He works in you to will. If you want to do great things for God, God worked that desire in you. If you have an unstoppable passion to preach the gospel from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, and then in Rome and on to Spain, that is grace. God worked that desire in you. If you carry it out, that is God’s grace, God working in you to work for his good pleasure.

This is how Paul describes his ministry in Colossians:

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul labors, he agonizes, he is wearied from the work, but it is God’s energy that is energizing him in power. God’s grace is at work in him.

Peter says it this way:

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How do you let your light shine? Where did you get the light? It was a gift! How do you do good works? God’s grace is working in you! Then God gets the glory for your good works, because God’s grace has become effective in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

All of Grace

It is by unmerited grace that I am forgiven, purchased, redeemed, made clean and set apart for his use. It is by undeserved grace that I am given grace gifts with which to serve others. It is God’s powerful resurrecting grace that is at work in me that supplies both the desire and the energy to use those gifts in service to others for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

So we preached so you believed. This gracious message, that Christ died for our sins, and that he was really and truly dead; that he was raised from the dead and he is really and truly alive, this undeserved gift to unworthy recipients, this transforming message that is at work in me healing my deepest hurts and mending what is broken in me, making me useful for the glory of God in the earth, this is the unanimous voice of apostolic witness on content of gospel. It really doesn’t matter who preached it, Paul or Peter or James or Matthew or Thomas, we all preach one message, that Christ died for our sins according to scriptures and that he was raised. This is what we preached, and this is what you believed. This is what you are trusting in, clinging to, being transformed by. This is a message of resurrecting grace.

Have you believed? Do you see yourself as utterly helpless and hopeless, dead in your trespasses and sins? Do you believe that God took action when you were unworthy and could contribute nothing? That God provided everything necessary in Christ for you? That he gives it freely to you as a gift? That he takes you to be his by grace, and that he enables you by his grace to be pleasing to him? Is his resurrecting grace at work in you?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment